by Angela Fairhurst
The Hotel Grande Bretagne is a luxury hotel in the historic center of Athens and is an historic institution in itself. Originally opened in 1874, the hotel has seen the evolution of Athens from Ottoman rule to a modern capital, lived through wars with Turkey, Balkan conflicts, two World Wars, a civil war and seen the transformation of the structure of Greek society and society in general. The hotel has hosted royalty, heads of state, celebrities, businessmen, politicians, journalists and discerning travelers. Its prime location, with a glorious view of the Acropolis, opposite Constitution Square and the House of Parliament, within walking distance to exclusive shopping areas, museums and the business district, make the Grande Bretagne an obvious choice to stay.
The hotel was reconstructed from top-to-bottom and restored to its original glory and updated to meet the modern requirements in hospitality for five-star standards when the Laskaridis shipping family took over the hotel in 2005. The 320 rooms are divided into Classic, Deluxe, and five different types of Suites, plus one Presidential and one Royal Suite. Furnished in Grande Bretagne’s traditional style of old-fashioned chic, the rooms have antique desks, gilt-edged lamps, comfortable beds with feather-down bedding and Toile de Jouy headboards, swag cream and gold drapes, and marble bathrooms with high-end amenities. The entire 6th and 7th floors are designated as 24-hour Butler floors, where every need and whim is handled.
The hotel has two swimming pools, and its GB destination spa has thermal and herbal steam rooms, a mud chamber, ice fountain, reflexology foot spa, ESPA and Valmont facials and massages. Wellness facilities also include a well-equipped gym, hair and nail salon and barber shop. From April to October, guests have exclusive access to the outdoor pool on the seventh floor.
The hotel has three restaurants and four bars. The GB Roof Garden Restaurant & Bar has an unparalleled view and serves an elaborate breakfast and Mediterranean cuisine. The Winter Garden City Lounge is an intricate marble room with extravagant floral arrangements with a bar open for drinks, light meals and afternoon tea. The Alexander Bar is an intimate setting with a variety of rare malt whiskies and cognacs. The Pool Bar has light meals. The Cigar Lounge, hidden on the first-floor, is great for a nightcap. Finally, there’s a Wine Library, where you can dip into the 3500 bottle-strong cellar or take a Greek Wine Masterclass.